- Leigh Torrence has Ade Jimoh's special teams prowess with better coverage skills. Despite the issues on the late deep pass that set up the game-winning field goal last week, one does not break into a cold sweat when Torrence is called upon to play nickel back. There was no such confidence with special teams ace "Uh-Oh" Jimoh lined up in coverage.
- Not that I'm one to talk, but Ryan Plackemeier should either drop a few dozen pounds or wear a looser jersey. I know punters aren't real football players, but he looks like the guy at the mall who thinks he's ripped and wears too-tight shirts but the bulges are flab, not muscle. His punt was OK, just OK. He didn't shank one that let the other team score a field goal without needing a first down as his predecessor did last week, so I guess that represents an improvement.
- On several occasions London Fletcher did exactly what you have to do to stop a big back. He got to Jamal Lewis in the backfield and hit him low. Lewis didn't always go down right away but he wasn't able to get any momentum and he was tackled quickly. Some of Lewis' best gains came on a toss sweep, away from the middle of the line and Fletcher.
- There was some puzzling clock management at the end of the first half. The Redskins had the ball at their own 33 with 2:28 left in the half. Portis ran for seven and the team dawdled as the clock ran down to 2:00. Portis then broke loose for 20 to the Cleveland 40 and still there was no sense of urgency. The next snap came with 1:16 left. After a pass to Moss gained six, there was another leisurely huddle and then a snap with 41 seconds left. With 35 seconds left, the Redskins called their first timeout. They nearly ran out of time, but they were able to get a field goal attempt off on the last play of the half. Zorn said that he didn't want the Browns to have any time left to be able to score. Given that Cleveland hadn't even sniffed the Red Zone all half, I'm not sure why that was such an overriding concern.
- As of halftime, Portis had outgained the entire Browns team, 75 yards to 59.
- Shaun Alexander got a few touches in his debut. He told me that he was working off of a very limited package of running plays. As he stood in the locker room, his Redskins hat was so new that it still had the size sticker on the bill.
- What's striking about Portis' running is that he gains yardage without the offensive line blowing the defense into the backfield snap after snap. The energy is focused on opening a hole and it doesn't have to be a very big one for Portis to slip through for five yards. It's not the Red Sea parting, it's more like a few strategically-placed rocks in a creek. On Portis' touchdown run, Lorenzo Alexander just push their men sideways while Randy Thomas gets about a yard of push. Jansen kind of bumps into his man, knocking him over, and tumbles into the end zone. Portis never set foot in the end zone but he got the ball across the plane of the goal line. There is no physical domination in the style of the Hogs, but it's smart blocking and Portis knows how to use it.
- It was a slightly different story on a 27-yard Portis run early in the fourth quarter. On this one, the O-line got a good push and created a pile on the inside. At the point of attack, though, Samuels stepped back as if to pass block and just shoved his man out of the way. Portis got to the second level quickly and an Santana Moss block—nothing spectacular, he just stayed engaged with his man—sprung him. This was the middle play in the three-play drive that led to the Redskins' winning TD.
- That came on a pass to Moss. A safety covering deep isn't much help when you send Moss streaking across the middle like that. The spin move to stay inbounds, make the tackler miss and get into the end zone isn't something you can teach.
- That put the Redskins up 14-3. I'm going to break down the goal line stand tomorrow in the Tuesday Take, so I'll stop here.
Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 19, 54 days before NFL free agency starts.
—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 46
—NFL Draft (4/26) 97
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 233
Things change quickly
Two years ago today, the Redskins were in the process of picking up the pieces after their 35-18 home loss to the Packers in the wild-card round of the 2015 season playoffs. How many of the 22 players who started that game for Washington are still with the team? You may be surprised to find out just how few are likely to be with the Redskins when the season opens in September.
WR DeSean Jackson—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
WR Pierre Garçon—Signed with 49ers as a free agent last year.
WR Jamison Crowder—Still with the Redskins
TE Jordan Reed—Still with the Redskins
LT Trent Williams—Still with the Redskins
LG Spencer Long—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
C Kory Lichtensteiger—Retired following the 2016 season
RG Brandon Scherff—Still with the Redskins
RT Morgan Moses—Still with the Redskins
RB Alfred Morris—Signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 2016
QB Kirk Cousins—Set to be a UFA, you know the story here
Of the 11 offensive starters, five are still with the team, one has retired, three are employed by other teams, and two are headed into free agency. The chances of either Long or Cousins returning currently hover under 50 percent, although things can change.
DE Chris Baker—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
DE Jason Hatcher—Retired following the 2015 season
NT Terrance Knighton—Signed with the Patriots following the 2015 season but was cut and he hasn’t played and subsequently retired
ILB Will Compton—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
ILB Mason Foster—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
OLB Ryan Kerrigan—Still with the Redskins
OLB Trent Murphy—Spent 2017 in injured reserve, set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Bashaud Breeland—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Will Blackmon—Released last September, currently unsigned
S DeAngelo Hall—Set to be an unrestricted free agent, likely to retire
S Dashon Goldson—Released after 2015 season, currently unsigned
Only one starter, Ryan Kerrigan, is under contract for 2018. Of the free agents, Breeland is likely to depart and things are up in the air regarding Foster, Compton, and Murphy.
To sum it up, out of 22 starters in that game played 740 days ago, only six are certain to be with the team in 2018 while nine have either signed elsewhere, spent 2017 out of football, or have retired (10 if you count Hall).
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In case you missed it
- The cheap, reasonable and dream WR scenarios for Redskins
- Podcast: Kirk Cousins simply didn't have enough help to succeed in 2017
- Which Redskins players will form the core of the defense in 2021?
- Five possible Redskins free agent targets
Most NFL teams usually carry at least six wide receivers, but going into the 2018 season, only Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris and Robert Davis hold signed contracts with the Redskins.
That means Washington must consider adding receiver help via free agency, especially considering Harris and Davis rarely played in 2017. Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant both played with the Burgundy and Gold in 2017, and while Grant has a solid chance to return, it would seem Pryor will head elsewhere after a disappointing season in D.C.
Like every year, a number of receivers will be available via free agency, but what guys make sense for Jay Gruden's team? Let's take a look at three different scenarios, knowing Washington likely needs to add at least one free agent wideout.
- Expensive: Jags WR Allen Robinson - A second-round pick in 2014, Robinson posted a 1,400-yard season in 2015 and has shown the ability to be a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He's 6-foot-3 with speed and leaping ability. In 2016, his numbers dipped to less than 900 yards receiving, but that season the Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles struggled significantly. Here's the thing: Robinson blew out his knee in the NFL opener in 2017, and that might make his price tag drop a bit. Word is the former Penn State star should be fully cleared by early March from the injury, and just 24 years old, he will be intriguing. Washington showed they would spend for a wideout in 2017 with the Pryor signing, but they did so on a one-year deal. If Robinson finds the free agent market not as robust as he wants, maybe a similar short-term deal could be reached?
- Reasonable: Colts WR Donte Moncrief - A third-round pick in 2014, Moncrief also had a big sophomore season in 2015. He grabbed 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns. That was his only full 16-game season, as injuries have continued to be an issue for the 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. wideout out of Ole Miss. In 2016, only playing in nine games, he still contributed with seven touchdowns. In 2017, his numbers slipped big-time, and he posted less than 400 yards receiving in 12 games. Moncrief's problem isn't talent, it's health. That means he could be relatively cheap, and at just 24 years old, that contract might bring a strong return.
- Wild Card: Jets WR Eric Decker - The Redskins have lacked a true veteran wideout since DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left the team following the 2016 season. Decker will turn 31 in March and would give Washington a different presence in the WR meeting room. He posted two 1,000 yard seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver and went to the Super Bowl in 2013. In 2015, while teamed up with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing for the Jets, Decker again hit the 1,000-yard mark and hit the end zone 12 times. Throughout his career, Decker has been a solid red zone threat and has shown the ability to win on tough routes. He will need to take a big pay cut from the $4.5 million, one-year deal he signed in Tennessee in 2017, but that has to be expected considering his paltry production. In 16 games with the Titans, Decker logged 563 yards and only one TD. Decker might make sense, though the cost would need to be low.
There are plenty of other names to watch, guys like Seattle's Paul Richardson or Buffalo's Jordan Matthews. Free agency opens in mid-March, and some connections between the Redskins and wideouts will start prior to that.
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